It was not accidental that US President Barack Obama ignored the Middle East issue in his annual speech known as the State of the Union address. He did not refer to the issue at all as part of his administration’s activities, which is worrying, as last year following his presidential victory, he began his speeches by speaking optimistically about the peace process.
Has Barack Obama reached the same conclusion that his predecessor Bill Clinton reached by the end of his term in office following the failure of the negotiations with Yasser Arafat? Clinton advised his successor George W. Bush not to make the same mistake i.e. to avoid the [Middle East] issue as the warring factions are not serious about achieving any kind of peace.
Despite the advice, Bush tried his luck when he declared his willingness to recognize two states – one Palestinian, one Israeli – as part of the peace process, however this was fruitless. A few weeks later, the events of 9/11 took place, which silenced any talk of anything other than the fight against Al Qaeda.
After winning the presidential elections, President Obama was very optimistic and prioritized the Palestinian cause over other issues, including fighting terrorism, which caused him to face heavy criticism in the US. Nevertheless, Obama pushed on with his attempts, relying on the impartial mediator, George Mitchell, a man whose neutrality has never been doubted and a man who has never been accused of siding with Israel. Following months of talks, Obama was faced with a big shock after the mediator admitted to him that nobody seems interested in solving the issue.
We are now about to enter a new, calm round of negotiations or perhaps a final attempt to convince both parties that negotiation is necessary in order to reach peace. Is peace more likely to be established under today’s circumstances and under the patronage of an impartial president and a fair mediator? There is a real chance as long as there is a real will to end the conflict that has forced millions to live as refugees or in exile and in conditions that any human being would not accept as part of the greatest injustice the world has experienced in decades.
New features indicate that this time the attempt is to expand the map of dialogue by allowing the Syrians to take part, and this is important as there is no peace without Syria. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership will be given reason to sit down with the Israelis without preconditions through early acknowledgment and recognition of borders in order to trade borders for settlement land.
It is not an easy task but it is deserves [efforts and] attempts to push matters towards a new reality.